They reached the doors of the great hall and Timonthy tried to voice his concerns before they entered and everyone could hear him. He knew that Gerard was looking at him with an expression of concern but he had to speak.
“Stolid is…not himself,” he settled for. “He hasn’t been right since Johnathon died.”
“I understand that better than you can imagine,” Peter replied. “Although I would say that he has re-gathered his thoughts and composure since being with us.”
They walked through the doors and made their way over to the tables. It was still quiet. The food bowls were relatively undisturbed as if they had beaten the rush. Peter paused in the act of reaching for food to say,
“I imagine that Elena is more worried about you. It looks like Stolid has chosen to run rather than to resolve the situation which, for various reasons you would probably not understand, I think is a sensible policy. But now you are here and Stolid has gone. He could be back later, tomorrow, in a year or never: we don’t know. That is difficult for you especially as Stolid was planning on helping Gerard rejoin your world with your assistance.”
Gerard who had been sitting very silently, as he normally did when Peter was talking, made a face as if in sudden irritation.
Peter turned slightly towaprds him as he continued, “all of you are of course welcome to stay as long as you like. In fact I would like it if you did make a good visit. I think Paris is enjoying it here, Lizzie will when she finds her feet and you can help me deal with Koa when he calms down. I know that Gerard finds it a little boring here but with your company it may be a good place to begin preparations for his future life.”
Timonthy didn’t know what to reply. He acknowledged what Peter said sounded sensible. Their plans were left in disarray now Stolid had abandoned them. He too concentrated on getting food and waited until they all sat down again to ask,
“What does dealing with Koa involve? It sounds ominous.”
Peter chuckled, “You are a very sensible man, Timonthy, I wish Koa was more like you but I suppose then he would not be the man he is. No, what I mean is we need to help him decide what he’s going to do with his life from now on. Is he going to stay with us or go somewhere else?”
“Is it definitely over then?” Timonthy asked. “Koa seemed to think if he could find Stolid they could work something out.”
“He didn’t find him I assume, as now Stolid is gone. Perhaps I should put some effort into trying to find Stolid to see whether a reconciliation is possible.”
“Why do you care?” Timonthy asked with a lack of delicacy he knew but he was deeply puzzled by the whole situation.
“I spend all of my life trying to stop people suffering. It’s a hard habit to break…Ah, there is Paris, and my son.”
What was the man’s fascination with Paris, Timonthy wondered. It appeared to be completely platonic but it was inexplicable along with almost everything else that had happened to him recently. He felt that just a few facts would make everything make sense but those facts were so elusive.
Yan ran over and flung his arms around Peter’s neck. As Peter turned to talk to him, Timonthy felt the withdrawal of his attention like the release of a wrestling hold. He was free to focus on what he wanted to now and he turned back to Gerard with a sense of relief.
“Are you happy staying here for a while?” he asked him. “I suppose we can’t wait for Stolid for ever but we could give him a week perhaps.”
Paris joined them at a more sedate pace and they all watched as Peter got up to talk to Will. Yan followed him, jumping up and down on his arm.
“You haven’t managed to wear him out, then?” Gerard said with a laugh.
“No, the other way around,” Paris said. “We’ve had a swimming lesson and did some fishing. I think the cook was pleased with our offerings. We’re going on some small boats after lunch on the river. Yan has been talking continuously. I’ve been finding out lots of things.”
She left this hanging in the air as if waiting for permission to speak.
“I think we can probably count Gerard as one of us,” Timonthy said with a wicked look in Gerard’s direction. “If we can’t we’re in more trouble than him knowing what you are about to tell us.”
“Well I know Yan is only a young child but then I think he probably has no motive to lie other than to impress me perhaps, or he may be confused as Elena said but he seems pretty switched on to me.”
She paused and they waited in expectation again. Timonthy raised an eyebrow as if questioning why she waited. “Well, Yan says that he used to have a baby brother.”
Timonthy visibly drooped as if disappointed by the nature of her news, he had no real interest in a domestic tragedy but he sensed Gerard’s unease next to him and brightened.
Perhaps Paris was onto something after all.
“Then about two years ago he disappeared. Yan’s parents told him that his brother hadn’t died he just had to live somewhere else. Yan was very upset. He couldn’t understand it. He thought that it might happen to him next although Peter promised that it wouldn’t. Then Elena disappeared for a few weeks but when she came back she seemed happy. She told him that his brother was safe and well and that he had grown up.”
“What!” Timonthy exclaimed. “Are they completely mad?”
“Well you can’t help but wonder,” Paris said happily. “Then his grown up brother came to stay with them and he was properly grown up, not just a little. He seemed to be older than his own father which Yan found a bit confusing to begin with, not surprising.”